National Spam Musubi Day is August 8 and provides the perfect reminder to munch on delicious food, or paint as they are called in Hawaii.
Spam musubi is a Hawaiian snack that looks like a huge piece of sushi. It’s a block of sticky rice topped with a slice of fried Spam stuck together with teriyaki sauce and wrapped with a rectangular sheet of nori, a dehydrated and snackable seaweed.
But unlike the more miniature sushi and onigiri counterparts from Japan – these hearty Spam treats are about half the size of a sandwich.
The Spam component is made from ham and pork with potato starch, water, sugar, sodium nitrate and salt. And while Spam is generally salty, the flavor in musubi is balanced with sticky rice and tangy teriyaki sauce.
Chewy and umami in taste, nori ties the Hawaiian snack together. And aesthetically, the nori’s jet black color and shine clash well with the bright white sushi rice and pink Spam with burn marks.
Spam, made by Hormel, first hit American supermarkets in 1937. Then four years later, during World War II, American soldiers brought the canned meat to Hawaii because it was small in size, dense, had good shelf life in backpacks and needed wartime protein.
Soon after, in the mid-1940s, Spam grew as a popular protein alternative due to a national meat shortage. The meat shortage was felt more in Hawaii, since it is separated from the mainland’s direct train and truck supply chains. As a result, boatloads of Spam cans were sent to the islands, where Spam became a hit.
It was infused into many recipes in Hawaii, and Spam, Eggs and Rice is an island favorite to this day, even found at McDonald’s.
In 1983, a family restaurant in Kaua’i—one of the state’s five major islands—created the first editions of Spam musubi. Early Spam musubi resembled Japanese onigiri, triangular rice appetizers. After that, Spam musubi exploded in both popularity and size.
While Spam musubi is the most well-known of the musubi family, all types of musubi can be found in metro Phoenix. At these Valley restaurants, every day is Musubi Day.
L&L Hawaiian Grill
2501 West Happy Valley Road, Suite 50-1250
L&L is one of the original Hawaiian-themed restaurant chains to enter the mainland. The franchise revolves around Hawaiian plate lunches, barbecue bowls, seafood combos and Spam musubi. To celebrate the national holiday, participating L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurants will be giving away a free Spam musubi to visitors who sign up for their app.
Golden Hawaiian BBQ
1760 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
At Golden Hawaiian BBQ in Chandler, you can choose from a menu of made-to-order Hawaiian plates and many musubi options, from traditional to spicy and chicken. An order of traditional Spam musubi includes two pieces for $6.60.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ
This chain has several locations throughout the valley. At Ono Hawaiian BBQ on East Thomas Road in Phoenix, musubis are served a little differently – with minimal teriyaki sauce. Instead, the restaurant has teriyaki sauce and katsu sauce dispensers that allow customers to douse the musubi pieces in as much tangy sauce as they want.
Ono also offers shrimp musubi, although they are not on the menu. These snacks, packed with two breaded shrimp, are a special request and cost an extra $2.50 each. order. Katsu sauce is the better option for the shrimp variety. Spam musubi here costs $5.99 for two pieces, while shrimp musubi costs $7.49.
Maui Hawaiian Grill
219 East Baseline Road, Tempe
At Maui Hawaiian Grill, Kalua combos, Maui and Aloha plates are filled with meat and fish dishes with Hawaiian flavor. They also prepare Spam musubi, for $4.99 each. par, and other tasty appetizers.
Leo’s Island BBQ
7665 West Bell Road, Peoria
Leo’s Island BBQ prepares hearty portions of Hawaiian plate lunches packed with meat or seafood and sides of macaroni, steamed rice and cabbage. They also make chicken katsu and island fish musubi variations along with the original Spam version. Two pieces cost $5.39.
T&Y Hawaiian BBQ
6756 West Camelback Road, Glendale
T&Y Hawaiian BBQ is a fusion restaurant that serves dishes from China, Korea, Japan and Hawaii, making the restaurant unique from the aforementioned musubi locations. Spam musubi here is $4.99 for two pieces.